(Ken Silva, Headline USA) Four pro-privacy legislators introduced bipartisan legislation on Tuesday that would require federal agencies to obtain warrants before using Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to spy on Americans.
The bill was introduced by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., who all touted the hard work they put in legislation designed to curb surveillance abuses while giving federal agencies the necessary tools to track foreign terrorists.
“The FISA Court and the Director of National Intelligence have confirmed that our government conducted warrantless surveillance of millions of Americans’ private communications,” Lee said. “It is imperative that Congress enact real reforms to protect our civil liberties, including warrant requirements and statutory penalties for privacy violations, in exchange for reauthorizing Section 702.”
However, the Biden administration has dismissed the legislation before reading it, according to Politico. An unnamed White House official reportedly told Politico that he and his White House colleagues “hadn’t even read the bill yet.”
Politico expressed concern that the Biden administration would automatically dismiss a bill that was designed to address national security concerns by including carve-outs for “defensive cybersecurity queries, emergencies, and consent.”
Sen. Lee blasted the Biden administration for its lack of concern for civil liberties.
“Joe Biden wants to veto our bipartisan government surveillance reform bill, because apparently illegal spying on American citizens is very important to his administration,” he said. “And he hasn’t even read the bill yet!”
Unless reauthorized by Congress, Section 702 will expire at the end of the year. House legislators are seeking to reform the section by requiring warrants to spy on Americans, but national security critics argue that doing so would “degrade” the National Security Agency’s ability to track groups like Hamas—even though Section 702 failed to stop the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.
The FISA authorization has come close to sunsetting before—notably in 2020—when lawmakers up for re-election suddenly began upping their rhetoric against government surveillance and FBI corruption.
However, it was re-authorized at the last minute with the caveat that major reforms would be a top priority. Since then, it has come to light that the FBI continued to conduct unlawful FISA queries—which, as of June, were estimated to number around 278,000.
FISA reform has been one of the rare issues of bipartisan agreement in Congress. In the House Judiciary Committee, both chairman Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and ranking member Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., agree in principle that the FBI should need a warrant to search Americans’ data under FISA.
Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/jd_cashless.